Finding America by RV—The Great Lakes Seaway Trail

Are you up for a five-hundred-mile RV road trip that promises to be the journey you’ll never forget? We’ve got your next itinerary—camping and sightseeing your way along two Great Lakes and two mighty rivers in Pennsylvania and New York. The attractions along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail run the gamut from Niagara Falls to lakeside villages, with charming campgrounds all along the way. Ready to go? Let’s look at the high points.

How Do We Get There?

We’re going to start our journey at the western end of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. Pick up PA Route 5 just east of the Ohio/Pennsylvania line and parallel Lake Erie all the way to the New York border. From the town of Ripley, NY, you’ll be following State Route 5 east to Buffalo. The Trail then continues east on a series of NY state highways, north through Niagara Falls and then east once more along the shore of Lake Ontario through Rochester and Oswego.

From there you’ll climb north once again along the lakeshore through Sackets Harbor and Cape Vincent, to the St. Lawrence Seaway, following that mighty river east to the town of Rooseveltown, NY, where our byway ends. An epic journey, indeed, filled with historic importance, stunning scenery and roadside attractions you won’t find along the interstate. 

What Can We Do and Where Can We Camp?

Speaking of attractions, it will be easier for you to follow along if we break up the journey into the five sections detailed on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail official website.

In Pennsylvania, you’ll enjoy views of the Lake Erie shoreline all along your route. Special places you’ll want to visit include Presque Isle State Park near the town of Erie, a three-thousand-acre peninsula with sandy beaches, an 1870s lighthouse and the Tom Ridge Environmental Center inviting you to explore. Beachside camping near the park can be found at Sara’s Campground.

Once you’ve visited Erie’s two additional lighthouses, numerous maritime history sites and historic districts, you can move northeast along Lake Erie to the Chautauqua/Niagara Section of the Trail via Buffalo. Slow down and enjoy the trip on Route 5 through classic harbor towns like Barcelona and Dunkirk, each with a lighthouse waiting to be photographed. Before heading into Buffalo and Niagara Falls, you could camp at Evangola State Park in Brant, with a sand beach and modern campground facilities.

Just across the Niagara River from Canada, Buffalo, NY has been reborn in recent years to offer world-class attractions RV travelers will want to enjoy. From Canalside, a vibrant entertainment district on the water, to the city’s collection of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, you could spend weeks getting to know this city that serves as the gateway to Niagara. Fishermen will want to pursue their sport in the city’s many waterways, as well, with legendary smallmouth bass, lake trout and musky fishing available on the Niagara River, Lake Erie and Buffalo Harbor.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

As you settle in to enjoy Niagara Falls,   you’re going to find numerous camping options along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in Buffalo/Niagara. Here’s a link to Niagara area campgrounds to help you start planning. Even if you’ve seen the Falls before on your RV travels, there’s nothing quite like the power of the three mighty waterfalls that make up what’s known as ‘Niagara’. And there’s plenty of historic interest, too, on both sides of the international border, including Old Fort Niagara just north of the falls on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail.

Let’s keep traveling! Moving east along Lake Ontario’s shore, you’ll drive through five state parks and beaches, as well as having the chance to tour Thirty Mile Point Light. Three additional lighthouses will be visible as you travel the Lake Ontario West section of the trail, through Rochester and Oswego, NY.

If you’d like to detour just a little south of the Trail to the Finger Lakes near Rochester, you’ll find more than one hundred vineyards and wineries, with ‘Wine Trails’ highlighting most of the lakes, to tempt your palate. Riverfront parkways and Seneca Zoo along the Genesee River in Rochester also offer RV travelers entertainment.

As our byway sweeps north along Lake Ontario to the St. Lawrence Seaway, the dramatic shoreline, numerous lighthouses and historic Sackets Harbor on Black River Bay will once again tempt RV travelers to slow down and savor their surroundings. Be sure to visit the War of 1812 battlefield before leaving Sackets Harbor, and also visit at least one of the area beaches before traveling on to Cape Vincent in New York’s 1000 Islands district.

Whether you linger near Cape Vincent to view the historic sites, to cross the Canadian border to visit Ontario and Thousand Islands National Park, to paddle whitewater rapids or hike or bike your way through quaint harbor villages, you’ll want to need a home base for your RV. Campgrounds are available at Burnham Point, Keewaydin and Grass Point State Park to meet your needs.

This finds us in our final section of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, along the St. Lawrence Seaway. From Cape Vincent to the end of our journey at Rooseveltown, we follow the shoreline of that remarkable collection of canals and locks that enable ocean-going vessels to make the journey from the Atlantic down the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes. On your way to the Trail’s western terminus, be sure to stop at the Eisenhower Locks Visitors’ Center to watch huge ships being raised and lowered in the lock.

We’ve reached the end of our journey and, if you’ve made the commitment to go the distance, you’ll have RV travel stories to tell for years. From the Lake Erie shoreline in Pennsylvania to the northern New York river towns along the St. Lawrence River, the Great Lakes Seaway Trail is waiting to amaze you. Book your New York or Pennsylvania RV rental now and start making campground reservations. It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime!

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